Beijing and Moscow agreed to push back against pressure from Washington during talks in China, with Russia’s foreign minister denouncing “illegitimate” sanctions imposed on them by the US and its allies and “destructive” Cold War tactics.
Meeting in the southern city of Guilin on Monday and Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov agreed to “work together against sanctions”.
They also called for a summit of permanent members of the UN Security Council to resolve “humankind’s common problems” at a time of heightened global political turbulence.
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In addition, they proposed a new dialogue platform be set up to address regional security concerns.
“[Western powers] should know that the days when they can arbitrarily interfere in China’s internal affairs by making up stories and lies are long gone,” Wang said during the talks, according to a Chinese foreign ministry statement.
The meeting took place after the European Union on Monday announced sanctions on four Chinese officials and an entity over human rights violations in Xinjiang, which was followed by a similar announcement from the US, Canada and Britain.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is visiting Brussels, said in a statement that “a united transatlantic response sends a strong signal to those who violate or abuse international human rights, and we will take further actions in coordination with like-minded partners”.
In a joint press briefing after the talks on Tuesday, Wang said unilateral sanctions were not based on international law.
Lavrov went further. “We noted the destructive nature of the United States’ intentions to undermine the UN-centred international legal architecture, relying on military-political alliances of the Cold War era and creating new closed alliances in the same vein,” the Russian foreign minister said.
“We reject zero-sum geopolitical games and reject unilateral illegitimate sanctions that our Western colleagues resort to more and more often.”
Ahead of the talks, Lavrov had called for the two countries to work together and move away from the US dollar for trade as a way to reduce the risks of sanctions.
The two sides also issued a joint statement after the meeting, saying they opposed the politicisation and use of human rights issues to meddle in other countries’ domestic affairs and that there were double standards at play. Interfering in the affairs of sovereign nations under the pretext of “promoting democracy” was unacceptable, it said.
As China and Russia have come under increasing pressure from the US in recent years, the two countries have drawn closer. While Beijing has been at pains to stress that their growing cooperation does not target any country, the talks came just two days after a meeting between US and Chinese officials in Alaska that began with a tense exchange in front of the cameras.
According to Feng Shaolei, director of the Centre for Russian Studies at East China Normal University in Shanghai, the united front against sanctions was an inevitable response to US pressure.
“Given the changes in US policy towards the two countries, it would be unrealistic for China and Russia to do anything other than unite to resist this pressure,” Feng said.
He added that it was unlikely Beijing and Moscow wanted to provoke a bigger confrontation by strengthening cooperation and working together against the sanctions and instead they were likely trying to “test the bottom line”.
In the joint statement, Wang and Lavrov also said the international community believed the US should reflect on the damage it had done to global peace and development in recent years, and that it should stop bullying other countries and “forming small circles to seek bloc confrontation”.
Tensions have also escalated between Moscow and Washington. Last week, US President Joe Biden called Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin “a killer”, with Putin responding by wishing Biden “good health”.
Russia has moved closer to China since sanctions were imposed by the West after Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. The US Commerce Department last week said it was tightening sanctions on some exports to Russia in response to the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
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